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It’s a great time to evaluate your driving habits, regardless of whether you’re dealing with rising gas prices or trying to trim your budget. There are 12 simple steps you can take to increase your fuel efficiency.
1: Driving slower will improve fuel economy
You waste 20 % of your fuel mileage by accelerating hard in stop-and-go driving. Spend all the extra time you have at the next traffic light thinking about how you could have spent the money you’re wasting if you live in rush hour traffic and like to accelerate to the limit.
2: Maintaining the right amount of pressure in your tyres will improve your fuel economy
According to surveys, 60% of vehicles have at least 30 % underinflated tyres. The pressure is at least 9 psi below the manufacturer’s recommendation. You’ll waste almost 7 per cent of your fuel. In addition, low air pressure causes premature tyre wear, which can cost almost $300. To ensure best results, check the air pressure on your tyre with a digital pressure gauge (available at any auto parts store) and fill your tyre to the recommended pressure shown on the decal inside the driver’s door or on the pillar in front of the driver’s door.
3: Changing spark plugs can save you fuel
Spark plugs with 130,000 kilometres on them are 80 per cent worn. During those last 32,000 km, you experience more misfires and incomplete combustion, wasting hundreds of dollars in fuel. Spark plugs have to be replaced anyway, so do it early and save money. The extra time you spend replacing plugs over the life of the car will still benefit you greatly. Also, don’t assume your plugs are good for 160,000 km. Spark plugs must be replaced every 50,000 kilometres or 100,000 kilometres for many four-cylinder engines.
4: Changing the air filter can help you get better fuel mileage.
53 million litres of air pass through your engine’s filter every year. Dirty air filters can increase fuel consumption by almost 10% on older vehicles (pre-1999). In newer vehicles, the computer detects the reduced airflow and cuts the fuel consumption accordingly. The engine is left with less power and pick-up. If you drive in dirty, dusty conditions, replace your oil filter at least once a year.
5: Maintaining your car’s alignment will save you money
For every 20,000 miles, you drive, 4.2cm of your tyres are bent out of alignment, which is the same as dragging them sideways for 164km. You’ll waste hundreds of wasted fuel every year. Also, you’ll be spending hundreds more on tyres if you do this. Check your alignment without taking your car to the shop by buying a tread depth gauge and measuring the tread depth of both edges of each tyre (rear tyres also). In the event that your car’s tyres are worn unevenly, it needs to be aligned.
6: Replace a damaged or missing spoiler to improve fuel economy
It wasn’t installed just for a sporty look, the plastic air dam (aka “spoiler”) is broken or missing. Driving without an air dam, or driving with one that is damaged, can reduce your fuel economy. Your air dam literally limits airflow under the hood by blocking airflow to the undercarriage. This allows your car to move through the air more quickly. Increasing airflow also reduces the load on a car’s electrical system, while allowing for more air to make it to the A/C condenser and radiator.
7: Reduce drag to improve fuel efficiency.
As you’ve likely heard before, there are statistics to back up my point. While aerodynamic drag in city driving isn’t a major problem, it really kills your gas mileage over 90 mph. You can increase your drag by 36 per cent by speeding up to 105km/h! You could lose hundreds of dollars a year just by getting to your destination a few minutes early if you drive the highways a lot. Use your cruise control and drive closer to 90 mph. You’ll be glad you did.
8: When the dashboard warning light illuminates, replace the oxygen sensors.
By monitoring the amount of oxygen remaining in the exhaust, oxygen sensors measure the efficiency of combustion. The problem is that they degrade over time, causing an increase in fuel mileage of up to 15%. You will be charged a diagnostic fee when one of them fails, due to the computer lighting up the “service engine soon” light. You should not let your car’s check engine light go out.
An oxygen sensor needs to be replaced every 96,000km on pre-1996 models to keep your mileage high. Sensors should be replaced every 160,000km in 1996 and newer models. Prices for oxygen sensors range from around $65 to over $300. It is possible for some cars to have as many as four sensors, but they rarely fail.
9: Thermostat replacement
When the thermostat opens or stays open too quickly or for too long, the coolant temperature will drop dramatically, lowering your fuel economy. Checking the temperature is as simple as using an inexpensive infrared laser thermometer. The thermostat housing is a good place to aim it. After your engine has warmed up, if the thermometer shows that it is less than 70 degrees Celsius, the thermostat needs to be replaced because fuel is being wasted. It is easy and inexpensive to replace a new thermostat, as long as your thermostat housing is painted black before testing.
10: Make sure there is no brake drag
You can really lose mileage due to brake drag. There is a nasty habit of brake callipers rusting, binding, and reducing fuel economy. Without having your brakes checked at a shop, how can you tell if they are dragging? Simple! Take off the wheel cover (if it’s equipped), and aim an inexpensive non-contact infrared laser thermometer at the hub after a drive. Comparing the left and right readings. It’s probably a broken wheel bearing or a dragging brake if they vary by more than 20 %. Get it fixed.
11: Air filters should be replaced in cabins
Your car’s blower motor can be damaged by a clogged cabin air filter, which will cause your air conditioner to work harder and longer in the summer. By replacing the cabin air filters yourself, you’ll save money and time. Ask the retailer to print out installation instructions when you buy a new cabin air filter at a nearby auto parts store. In late-model vehicles, the cabin air filter is generally found in the air duct behind the glove box.
In some models, the cabin air filter may be located on the console or cowling. It is easy to remove the old filter by simply removing the access cover. Install the new filter in the proper orientation by keeping in mind the direction of the airflow arrows. Install the new covers, and you’re all set.
12: Watch out for warning lights
Be aware of the warning lights on your dashboard. A glowing check engine light is not important to car owners because it only means there is an “emissions problem.” Guess what? The problem with emissions is almost always the result of an incomplete burn, so you’re not getting the most out of your investment. Another way to say this is that a check light means you’re wasting fuel.
Additionally, all that extra fuel gets right into your expensive catalytic converter, which prematurely fails. In addition to having to replace a new catalytic converter, you still have to fix the underlying issue that triggered the check engine light in the first place. It is often the fault of a bum sensor or vacuum leak that causes the check engine light to illuminate. Fixing a vacuum leak or replacing a sensor will save you far more than you’ll lose in reduced fuel economy.
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